Match against Jubilo Iwata-Gaining a draw with a fighting spirit towards the end  

The 2010 J. League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup started on 31 March. Urawa Reds is in group B and played against Jubilo Iwata at the Reds home in Saitama Stadium.
The team changed many of the starting line up members since they last played four days ago against Cerezo Osaka. Six members namely Kato, Takahashi, Spiranovic, Tsutsumi, Haraguchi and Takahashi were selected to be starting line up members. Except for Haraguchi, the five players went onto the pitch for the first time this season.

The match started at 19:30 with a Reds kick off. After one minute, Takahashi ran towards the center from the left of the goal area. Hosogai picked up the ball from behind which Edmilson missed and shot it towards the goal. It seemed as thought the team had a good start to the match. However, the team started to lose the ball due to their slow ball passing speed and simple mistakes. As a result, Jubilo Iwata started to control the game. At 13 minutes into the match, Spiranovic in center field tried a header shot with a cross ball from the left. However, the ball landed into a crowed space which enabled Iwata’s Naruoka who was not marked and in the goal area to score a goal with his left foot from the center.

At 26 minutes into the match, the team allowed opponent players onto the right of the team and an opponent player then kicked the ball to the far side. Kato had to move to catch the ball and just managed to do so with his left foot.

Kashiwagi and Haraguchi also tried to score goals. Takahashi tried a header shot after receiving Kashiwagi’s early cross ball. However, all of them did not make it into the goal. At 35 minutes into the match, Takahashi was knocked down in the goal area. However, it was not regarded as foul play. Urawa Reds made several mistakes and was not able to get the ball to the front line to make good offensive play. A big booing filled the stadium when the whistle blew ending the first half of the match with the score of 1 to 0.

Ponte was introduced to take the place of Tsutsumi during the second half. Hosogai was sent to play in the left side back position and the team formed 4-1-3-2 formation. Takahashi on the right and Hosogai on the left as well as both side backs moved forward proactively and the team started to control the ball in the opponent’s side. At 53 minutes into the game, Ponte kicked the ball which he received from the left side as a free kick ball. Takahashi received the low ball flying towards the goal from Ponte with good timing and dove to make a header shot. However, the shot unfortunately missed the goal.

Even though the Reds mounted an offensive by tackling the opponent’s counter plays, much time passed without the Reds scoring goals successfully.
At 76 minutes into the game, a golden opportunity appeared. Ponte managed to break free from the opponent’s right side defense player and got into the goal area while dribbling the ball. Edmilson received the ground ball from Ponte and shot the ball towards the goal. However, the ball hit the goal keeper’s foot widely open in front of the goal. Haraguchi kicked the rebound ball at the goal. However, the ball was caught again by the goal keeper.

The Reds were unable to break Iwata’s offensive and could not create any decisive chances before injury time. However, two minutes into the injury time, Ponte received a long ball from Spiranovic and played in coordination with Kashiwagi in the goal area. Ponte ran forward and shot a goal right by the goal keeper with his right foot. The outside ball speared the goal net and the team had scored a goal to catch up with their opponent. After that, the team managed to defend the counter kicks of their opponent. Edmilson shot another ball with his right foot from a long feed to finish the game. However, the ball landed right in front of the goal keeper. The first day of the J. League Nabisco Cup finished with the score of 1 to 1, which was the minimum requirement for the team.

Urawa Reds will play the fifth J. League match in their home Saitama Stadium again on Saturday, 3 April from 19:00 against Shonan Bellmare.

[Comments made after the match]
Comment from General Manager Koichi Hashiratani
I share a common goal of winning the New Yamazaki Nabisco Cup with the Team Manager. We selected the best members based on our current situation including our players’ conditions and injuries. However, the newly introduced team members were not able to align themselves well.

Since they were not familiar with playing in real games, they were not able to show their potential well. As a result, the performance of the team during the first half of the match today was not so good. However, we were able to readjust ourselves during the second half of the match by having Ponte in the team. Though it was right before the end of the match, it was great that the team scored a goal and gained one point by finishing the match with a draw. As we were not able to win the match and could not score three points, we paid an expensive lesson fee. We will definitely have to make the most of the lesson we learnt today. We should not repeat the same mistakes from now on when we have to play in a series of matches like we did this week.

Comment from Ponte
Though the team was not able to play well during the first half of the match, it was natural for those players who have not played in real matches together to experience what they did. As we felt a strong pressure on our front line, we discussed among ourselves that we would play more aggressively during the second half. As a result, we were able to create more scoring opportunities. We got better during the second half of the match as we were able to be confident. We played long passes and one-two passes well.

It was good that I was able to score a goal as everyone of the team made it possible for me to face the goal keeper one on one. Even though we only had a few opportunities to score goals, we were not able to make the most of such opportunities. But, this is what soccer is all about and it could not be helped. It was not like someone did a bad job. Every one is responsible for a result whether it is a good result or bad result. Even though it was not the best match we played, it was good that we finished the match with a draw. As we will be playing in our home stadium again next, I would like to play our next match in a calm manner.

Comment from Nobuhiro Kato
I feel that it was extremely regrettable that we lost a goal in a difficult situation during the first half of the match. I also feel frustrated that I was not able to bring calm-headedness to the team either under such a situation. During the second half of the match, we were able to have a fresh start. I think we were able to play with good concentration. Even though we were not able to secure three points this time, I think we fulfilled the minimum expectation considering how we were before.

(In response to the question asking why there were many mistakes.) As for my own performance, I was well aware that our opponents’ two top players, especially Lee Keun Ho, would escape our defence from behind, I was thinking to take care of such a ball by myself. However, the condition of the pitch and my play style did not match at times and I faced some very risky situations. When we lost the goal, it would have been better if the ball went clear past the touch line when I moved behind. However, the ball did not reach that far.

(In response to the question saying it was his first play in a match after a long absence.) It was my first match after a long two year absence and it was my third Yamazaki Nabisco Cup. However, I did not feel nervous in a bad way. Even though our team lost a goal, I was able to remain concentrated during the match.

I knew that it would be difficult for my voice to be well projected. I leant that it makes things difficult when your voice is not heard well especially when what I want to do and what the team is trying achieve are misaligned. However, our team was well aware of this during the second half of the match. It makes our play tough when our voices are not well-projected. I think this is something we have to overcome.
In reality, we had wanted to play during the first half in the way we played in the second half. Since Spiranovic and Tsuboi remained concentrated in their defensive, I think the team will develop well into the future.

I was glad to play in front of the many people who support us. There are still so many challenges I have to overcome. I will do my best to be better so that I can play in many more matches in the future. I would like to be able to show my strength in a calmer manner.

[Urawa Reds Official Media (URD: OM)]